Now that we had had our ‘holiday’, we headed to Quito with the intention to spend some time in a garage working on Ruby. We needed to finish the suspension raise as well as tackle some more of the serious rust issues. Alex had offered to go with us to the garage, so we could get a quote and we said we would meet him there the next morning. By the time we arrived in the city, we headed to our old faithful car park for the night. Despite being a Friday night, it was mostly deserted and we slept well. The next day, we headed off to meet Alex in the garage and made the most of having a translator for once, even though we probably didn’t need one.
This was not our only option, there was also a garage in Machachi, the closest town to the south. Both had their pros and cons. The city centre garage was convenient, but located on a busy main road and we worried about the cats being here. They told us we could stay in our van and were happy for us to work on it ourselves too, a huge money saving bonus. We spoke to the welder and pointed out the keys areas we wanted sorted first. He had a quick look and quoted us around $250 and three days of work. He reckoned that the interior didn’t need to come out either. Now as good as that sounded, it just didn’t seem realistic. We reckoned that this needed a good two weeks work and that we would need to completely strip out the van to do it.
We agreed that we would meet up with Alex back at his house later, as he had kindly agreed to let us stay in his garden. In the meantime, he needed to go to Ibarra and we decided that we would go to Machachi and get a quote from the other garage. It was a fair drive, but then at least we would know where we stood and could make a decision for the start of the week.
While the drive to get there should have been straightforward, Google played it’s famous party trick and took us a ‘shortcut’. One that we very nearly did not make. Quito nestles in a valley and therefore some of the roads that leave it are incredibly steep. Google decided to take us to the main road via some small, lumpy side roads that seemed to climb almost vertically out of the valley. The first one we made it up and pulled over at the top to give the engine a break. It had only been a few minutes, we but had screamed up what felt like a 45 degree incline, pushing the engine very hard. An interested resident heard our loud approach and came to chat while Ruby cooled. He pointed us the next route to get to the main road, while I calmed down from the stress of nearly not making it. I should have known, the roads were about to get steeper.
We turned off and I put the pedal to the floor. The engine passed 4,000 rpm and launched us at the next offending hill. Typically, the hill ended with a stop sign and a T-junction. There was absolutely no way we could stop on a hill that steep and the pull away again and so as I attacked the hill, I hoped firstly that we would be able to get up it and secondly that no one was coming the other way. The problem here is that being quite heavy we have experienced not getting up the hill before. While you might wonder what the big deal is, surely you just stop and roll back down, this is not what happened before. Last time, the hill was so steep that when we stopped we began to slide down it, wheels locked. That’s a pretty horrifying thing and I had no wish to repeat it. I had no wish to drive this road either, but now that we were on this side of town, all the roads leading up to the main road were equally steep and we didn’t really have much choice. So, we went for it. As we climbed the final metres, we slowed. My foot still flat on the floor, the rpms dropped and for a few nail-biting seconds I thought we wouldn’t make it. Ruby crawled the last few metres over the rest of the hill, pulled blindly out into a fortunately empty street and we had made it out of the valley. Now we were up, I spared myself a few seconds to have a slight breakdown as we pulled onto the far more agreeable main road. Never, ever, listen to Google.
The rest of the drive to Machachi was uneventful and we pulled up outside the garage. They were expecting us as we had already spoken to them over WhatsApp. We pulled Ruby over the pit outside and everyone piled under to have a proper look at the rust. This guy took his time. He looked it all over and also pointed out that our rear suspension angle was still wrong. Despite the welder in Chia’s best efforts, our spring plate was angle incorrectly and rubbing on the torsion tube. The only good thing is that Ecuador has a lot of kombis and so it seemed we might be able to cut this section of chassis of another van, guaranteeing a far better repair. After some time, we came out with a rough quote of $200, but to do a lot more work. He also offered us an apartment to stay in as he too thought the interior needed to come out. We liked that he took the time to look and also thought it was a far longer job than three days, it seemed much more realistic and also cheaper. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to help us rather than just make money. The only downside was that they were quite busy. He told us that if we could come back in the New Year, it would be better. Despite the fact that the rear chassis was splitting apart, we figured it could hold on a few more weeks and so we parted ways, agreeing to come back in a month.
With that sorted, I can’t pretend I wasn’t happy to have a few more garage free weeks. While we had been preparing ourselves to do it now, it’s hardly something we were looking forward too. We headed back to Quito and got ourselves set up in Alex’s garden. He wasn’t there yet, it looked like his trip was taking a while. He didn’t arrive back until much later and I think we were both tired from a long afternoon of driving so we agreed to have a quiet night and catch up in the morning.
This weekend was a national festival and so what should have been a pretty quiet suburb in the city was in fact a party until 3am. This left us not wanting to do too much the next day. We decided though that we would like to cook a curry for Alex and Giselle as they had been very kind to us and so we headed off to the supermarket to stock up for a huge curry night.
Alex also kind drove us over to a guy who was breaking his kombi for parts. We hoped that maybe we could get some reasonable second hand doors here. Despite the fact the kombi looked pretty good, a close inspection revealed a fair bit of rust. The doors were better than ours, but nevertheless they were still beginning to rot through at the bottom. Then he told us he wanted $250 a door. This was a bit of a piss take when we knew he was selling the whole kombi for $1000 and we wanted 4 doors. He was clearly desperate to make back his initial investment, but it wouldn’t be through our purchase with prices like that.
We spent the next couple of days in their garden. We cooked a huge curry, made use of a proper hot shower and spent some time picking Alex’s brains about what there was to do around the area. We also took down our very broken roof rack and left it in his garden, that was another problem for the New Year. By the time we were ready to leave three days later, we had a plan.
It had been decided, not really to our delight, that the overlander Christmas meet up would be held in Finca Sommerwind. This meant heading back north to Ibarra in three weeks time. We were also aware that after Christmas, we would be in the garage for two weeks and this would only give us two more weeks to explore the southern part of Ecuador. We decided we should use this time now to visit some more places, despite the sketchy state of the rear suspension. At least here the roads were good and we figured if we didn’t need go off road at all, it should hold out.
It is possible to complete a loop to the west of Quito which takes you south past Cotopaxi Volcano before heading west out into the Amazon. Then you head back south again, before the road loops back round to the East and into Quito again. From here, a few hours more driving will take you back to Ibarra and the Finca. We planned to head to the famous market in Otavalo for Christmas shopping on the 23rd of December, meaning we had just under three weeks to complete this loop. It sounded like a good plan and we were looking forward to really seeing some more of Ecuador as so far we hadn’t done all that much.
We jumped in their lovely hot shower one last time, said our goodbyes to Alex and Giselle and set off.